A lightweight fixed-gear bike tour of France and Spain

There and back again

We’ve been to Brugge, and now we are back in Ghent. We cycled back the same way we came, following a canal between the two cities. When we cycled to Brugge, our bike computers recorded that the distance was 40 miles (65km). On the way back, they recorded only 30 miles (about 50km)!

Following an essentially straight canal seems  straight forward, but it wasn’t so simple. We didn’t have a map, we just knew to follow the canal. The trouble was that there were bridges over the canal every few miles, and paths on both sides. Sometimes we would pass a bridge and think, “oh, we’ll just stay on this side,” then bike another two miles, only for the paved path to turn into a dirt track heading off in some no-canal-following direction. Or we would reach a side branch of the canal, and either there would be no bridge, or we would have to cycle an extra couple of miles to the next bridge.

All together, those mistakes added an extra 10 miles to our outbound trip! We returned to Ghent, and the piece of mail that we were awaiting had arrived. So we biked to the train station, and tried to buy tickets to Reims, in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France (from where the bike tour proper will begin — no more trains, etc). Because of difficulties with taking our bikes on French trains, we could only get tickets to Lille. From there we will either be able to find local trains (the high-speed trains never take bikes) to Riems, or we will cycle from there (3 days worth of cycling).


One response

  1. Tim

    From Champagne to Bruges to Grandmothers

    “The Champagne fairs, … an annual cycle of trading fairs held in towns in the Champagne and Brie regions of France in the Middle Ages. … became an important engine in the reviving economic history of medieval Europe…The fairs…were one of the earliest manifestations of a linked European economy, a characteristic of the High Middle Ages…. Historians have dated the decline of the Champagne fairs to the conquest of Champagne by Philip the Bold in 1273. In 1285 Champagne became an integral part of France. ‘When the special motivation was removed in 1285’, Janet Abu-Lughod observes, ‘the Champagne fairs lost their edge.’ …. Their place was assumed by the fairs of Bruges, to which the Genoese ships sailed…”

    Janet L. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350

    April 5, 2011 at 9:33 am

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